གཟའ་སྤེན་པ། ༢༠༢༤/༠༤/༡༣

Violence Continues in Thailand's Muslim South  - 2004-11-03

A village leader has been found beheaded in the troubled southern region of Thailand. Authorities indicate that the killing was in retaliation for the deaths last week of 85 Muslims from the same region.

Thai officials say the severed head of deputy village chief Ran Tulae was found by a road in southern Narathiwat province. The rest of the body was later discovered on the same road a kilometer away.

Officials report a note found with the body said the killing was in revenge for the "innocent" victims of Tak Bai district.

Seven protesters were killed by police gunfire last week in Tak Bai district when security forces broke up a violent demonstration outside a police station and detained some 1,300 Muslim men.

Seventy-eight of those detainees subsequently died, mostly from suffocation, after being packed into trucks and taken to camps several-hours away. Most of the survivors have been released, although several dozen are being held on charges of sedition.

A professor at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University, Panitan Wattanayagorn, says he is not surprised at the incident, noting that some in the largely-Muslim South had vowed to avenge the Tak Bai deaths.

"The new kind of incidents may from now on be taking place more if the authorities are not able to contain it in the next few weeks," said Professor Wattanayagorn. "They have to increase the effort to win hearts and minds of the local residents in a very, very short time."

It was the second beheading since violence erupted in January between security forces and Muslim militants reportedly seeking a separate state in the south. A village chief was also beheaded last April after the deadliest day of violence so far, when 107 suspected militants were killed, 23 of them in a historic mosque, after attacking police posts. All told, more than 400 people have died in the violence this year.

Last week's deaths brought widespread criticism from civic groups, human rights groups and foreign governments. They accused Bangkok of heavy-handedness in dealing with the simmering resentments of Thailand's Muslim minority towards the central government of the predominately-Buddhist country.

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinwatra has ordered an independent investigation into last week's incident, and offered compensation to the victims' families.